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Four double-digit seeds advance as Challenge Tournament semifinals set at U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Wrestling

by Andy Elder, Special to

Yianni Diakomihalis celebrates his quarterfinal win at 65 kg in men's freestyle over 2016 Olympian Frank Molinaro. Photo by Tony Rotundo.

FORT WORTH, Texas — Four double-digit seeds have advanced into the semifinals of the challenge tournaments at their respective weights during the first session of the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Wrestling on Friday at Dickies Arena.

Benji Peak (Sunkist Kids Wrestling Club), the 11th seed at Greco-Roman 67 kg, shut out the Nos. 6 and 3 seeds, respectively, to earn a semifinal match with No. 2 seed Raymond Bunker (All-Marine Wrestling Team) in the second session, which will begin at 6:30 CT.

Jesse Porter (NYAC), the No. 10 seed at 77 kg Greco-Roman, didn’t yield a point, winning 6-0 and then 10-0 over No. 2 seed RaVaughn Perkins (NYAC). Porter meets No. 3 seed Patrick Smith (Minnesota Storm) in the lower half of the draw.

At 76 kg in women’s freestyle, a pair of wrestlers are a win away from an all double-digit seed challenge tournament final. Kylie Welker (Titan Mercury Wrestling Club), a high school junior who won last week’s Last Chance Tournament at 68 kg, upset No. 5 seed Yelena Makoyed (Cardinal Wrestling Club), 11-4, in the quarterfinals. Welker earned a showdown with top-seeded Dymond Guilford (TMWC/USOPTC).

In the bottom half of the 76 kg draw, Jackie Cataline (TMWC) knocked off the Nos. 6 and 3 seeds in succession. She will face No. 2 seed and multiple-time World Team member Victoria Francis (TMWC) in this evening’s semifinals.

The biggest news of the session, however, came two hours before the first whistle blew to signal the 10 a.m. start of the session. J’den Cox (TMWC/USOPTC), who had earned a spot in the 97 kg men’s freestyle semifinals, was removed from the bracket when he didn’t make weight at 8 a.m.

Cox was a 2016 Olympic bronze medalist and 2017 World bronze medalist at 86 kg, then won consecutive World titles in 2018 and 2019 at 92 kg. He was a three-time NCAA champion at Missouri, and hails from Columbia, Missouri.

With the exception of a few other minor upsets, things went pretty much as seeded at most of the 18 weights.

The semifinals of the Challenge Tournament will be held at 6:30 p.m. CT, and will be broadcast live on NBCSN.

Women’s Freestyle

The top four seeds at 50 kg all advanced. Top seed Whitney Conder (Army World Class Athlete Program) and fourth-seeded Amy Fearnside (TMWC/USOPTC) will meet in one semifinal. Alyssa Lampe (Beaver Dam Regional Training Center/SKWC), the No. 2 seed, will meet third seed Victoria Anthony (Arizona State Regional Training Center/SKWC) in the other.

Ronna Heaton (SKWC), the fifth seed at 53 kg didn’t give up a point in earning a semifinal berth against No. 1 seed Dominique Parrish (SKWC). In the bottom half of the draw, second-seeded Areana Villaescusa (Army WCAP) will take on Katherine Shai (TMWC), the third seed.

The top two seeds at 57 kg waltzed into the semifinals. No. 1 seed Jenna Burkert (Army WCAP) won 11-0 and is paired with No. 5 seed Cameron Guerin (TMWC/Bearcat Wrestling Club). Alli Ragan (SKWC) scored a first-period fall to set up a semifinal match with third-seeded Xochitl Mota-Pettis, who survived a wild 15-12 decision over Bridgette Duty (Patriot Wrestling Club).

Fifth-seeded Jennifer Page (TMWC/Nittany Lion Wrestling Club) won 11-0 and then 5-2 over fourth-seeded Emma Bruntil (TMWC/Bearcat WC) to make the semifinals at 62 kg. She will face 2017 Junior World champion Maya Nelson (SKWC), the No. 2 seed.

In the other half of the draw, No. 2 seed and multiple-time age-group World medalist Macey Kilty (SKWC) squares off with 2018 Senior World bronze winner Mallory Velte, the No. 3 seed.

At 68 kg, fifth-seeded Alara Boyd advanced to the semifinals with a 5-2 win over Ashlynn Ortega (New York Athletic Club). Boyd will meet top-seeded Forrest Molinari (SKWC), a two-time Senior World Team member.

In the other semifinal, Alexandria Glaude (TMWC/Bearcat WC) will meet high school junior Kennedy Blades (SKWC), who won 10-0 in the quarterfinals.


The top two seeds at 60 kg advanced with relative ease and face a couple of lower seeds who notched shutout wins to advance. Leslie Fuenffinger (Army WCAP), the top seed, won 9-0 and will meet fifth-seeded Dalton Roberts (Army WCAP), who won 5-0 in the quarterfinals.

In the other half of the draw, Ryan Mango, the Stanford grad who is seeded second, takes on Sam Jones (NYAC). Jones blitzed No. 3 seed Max Nowry (Army WCAP), 11-0.

In the top half of the draw at 67 kg, two-time Olympian Ellis Coleman (Army WCAP) meets fourth-seeded Xavier Johnson (AMWT).

Only the Nos. 1 and 3 seeds advanced to the finals at 77 kg. In the top half of the draw, top-seeded Jacob Fisher (Curby-3-Style) advanced to meet fifth-seeded Peyton Walsh (ALMT).

The top four seeds held at 87 kg. Top seed Alan Vera (NYAC) is set to take on No. 4 seed and 2019 World Team member John Stefanowicz (AMWT) in the top half. Down below, Jonathan Anderson (West Point Wrestling Club) meets No. 3 seed Patrick Martinez (NYAC).

Sixth-seeded Braxton Amos (Wisconsin Regional Training Center), who qualified for the Trials in both Greco-Roman and freestyle, scored a fall in 1:59 to secure a spot in the 97 kg semifinals. He will meet second seed Lucas Sheridan (Army WCAP).

In the top half, No. 1 seed Daniel Miller (AMWT) meets Nicholas Boykin (SKWC).

At 130 kg, West Cathcart (NYAC/Illinois Regional Training Center) earned a semifinal berth as the fifth seed opposite No. 1 seed Adam Coon (NYAC/Cliff Keen Wrestling Club). The other semifinal will feature No. 2 seed Cohlton Schultz (SKWC) against No. 3 seed Jacob Mitchell (Army WCAP).

Men’s Freestyle

Sixth-seeded Joe Colon, the 2017 World bronze medalist, survived a wild 9-8 decision over No. 3 seed Seth Gross at 57 kg. Colon will meet top-seeded Thomas Gilman (TMWC/NLWC), who cruised 11-0 in his quarterfinal bout.

The winner of that match will take on the winner of second-seeded Daton Fix (TMWC/Cowboy Regional Training Center) vs. Vitali Arujau (TMWC/Spartan Combat Regional Training Center).

At 65 kg, fifth seed Joey McKenna (TMWC/Penn Regional Training Center) rolled to a 12-2 win to earn a semifinal match with No. 1 seed Zain Retherford (TMWC/NLWC). The other semifinal will feature No. 2 seed Yianni Diakomihalis (TMWC/SCRTC) vs. third-seeded Jordan Oliver (SKWC).

Diakomihalis defeated 2016 U.S. Olympian Frank Molinaro (Sunkist Kids), 10-0 in the quarterfinals, and Molinaro placed his shoes on the mat in retirement.

Evan Wick (TMWC) pulled off a pair of upsets at 74 kg to earn a semifinal berth against two-time World champion Kyle Dake (CRTC/TMWC), who earned a bye into the semfinals. Wick edged No. 3 seed Thomas Gantt (TMWC/Wolfpack Wrestling Club), 9-8, and then pinned No. 2 seed Chance Marsteller (TMWC) in 1:13.

In the top half of the draw, top-seeded Jason Nolf (TMWC/NLWC) earned a bye into the semifinals opposite No. 5 seed David Carr (Cyclone Regional Training Center), who blanked No. 4 seed Logan Massa (CKWC), 8-0.

At 86 kg, the top two seeds — No. 1 David Taylor (TMWC/NLWC) and No. 2 Zahid Valencia (SKWC) — will face the Nos. 5 and 6 seeds, respectively. Taylor rolled to an 11-0 shutout win and will meet No. 5 seed Gabe Dean (TMWC/SCRTC), who squeaked by No. 3 seed Myles Martin (TMWC/Ohio Regional Training Center), 2-1. Valencia won 6-3 and will take on No. 5 seed Bo Nickal (TMWC/NLWC), who rolled to a 13-3 win over No. 3 seed Pat Downey (Sanford MMA).

Kollin Moore, the top seed at 97 kg, notched a 10-0 win and will meet No. 5 seed Ty Walz (TMWC/SERTC) in the top half of the weight. Hayden Zillmer (Gopher Wrestling Club) will take on No. 3 seed Michael Macchiavello in the other semi.

Sixth seed Greg Kerkvliet (TMWC/NLWC) avenged an NCAA Championships loss to Mason Parris (CKWC) on criteria, 4-4, at 125 kg. He’ll meet No. 2 seed Gable Steveson (GWC) in one semifinal at 125 kg. In the top half of the draw, No. 1 seed Nick Gwiazdowski (TMWC/WWC) rolled 11-0 and will take on No. 4 seed Dom Bradley (SKWC).